Walt Disney Fact File
The Life and Times of Walt Elias Disney
Try to imagine a world without Walt Disney. A world without his magic, whimsy, and optimism. Walt Disney transformed the entertainment industry, into what we know today. He pioneered the fields of animation, and found new ways to teach, and educate.
Walt's optimism came from his unique ability to see the entire picture. His views and visions, came from the fond memory of yesteryear, and persistence for the future. Walt loved history. As a result of this, he didn't give technology to us piece by piece, he connected it to his ongoing mission of making life more enjoyable, and fun. Walt was our bridge from the past to the future.
During his 43-year Hollywood career, which spanned the development of the motion picture industry as a modern American art, Walter Elias Disney established himself and his innovations as a genuine part of Americana.
A pioneer and innovator, and the possessor of one of the most fertile and unique imaginations the world has ever known. Walt Disney could take the dreams of America, and make them come true. He was a creator, a imaginative, and aesthetic person. Even thirty years after his death, we still continue to grasp his ideas, and his creations, remembering him for everything he's done for us.
Walter Elias Disney was born on December 5, 1901 in Chicago Illinois, to his father, Elias Disney, an Irish-Canadian, and his mother, Flora Call Disney, who was of German-American descent. Walt was one of five children, four boys and a girl.
Later, after Walt's birth, the Disney family moved to Marceline, Missouri. Walt lived out most of his childhood here. Walt had a very early interest in drawing, and art. When he was seven years old, he sold small sketches, and drawings to nearby neighbours. Instead of doing his school work Walt doodled pictures of animals, and nature. His knack for creating enduring art forms took shape when he talked his sister, Ruth, into helping him paint the side of the family's house with tar.
Close to the Disney family farm, there were Santa Fe Railroad tracks that crossed the countryside. Often Walt would put his ear against the tracks, to listen for approaching trains. Walt's uncle, Mike Martin, was a train engineer who worked the route between Fort Madison, Iowa, and Marceline. Walt later worked a summer job with the railroad, selling newspapers, popcorn, and sodas to travellers.
During his life Walt would often try to recapture the freedom he felt when aboard those trains, by building his own miniature train set. Then building a 1/8-scale backyard railroad, the Carolwood Pacific or Lilly Bell.
Besides his other interests, Walt attended McKinley High School in Chicago. There, Disney divided his attention between drawing and photography, and contributing to the school paper. At night he attended the Academy of Fine Arts, to better his drawing abilities.
Walt discovered his first movie house on Marceline's Main Street. There he saw a dramatic black-and-white recreation of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.
During these "carefree years" of country living young Walt began to love, and appreciate nature and wildlife, and family and community, which were a large part of agrarian living. Though his father could be quite stern, and often there was little money, Walt was encouraged by his mother, and older brother, Roy.
Even after the Disney family moved to Kansas City, Walt continued to develop and flourish in his talent for artistic drawing. Besides drawing, Walt had picked up a knack for acting and performing. At school he began to entertain his friends by imitating his silent screen hero, Charlie Chaplin. At his teachers invitation, Walt would tell his classmates stories, while illustrating on the chalk board. Later on, against his fathers permission, Walt would sneak out of the house at night to perform comical skits at local theatres.
During the fall of 1918, Disney attempted to enlist for military service. Rejected because he was under age, only sixteen years old at the time. Instead, Walt joined the Red Cross and was sent overseas to France, where he spent a year driving an ambulance and chauffeuring Red Cross officials. His ambulance was covered from stem to stern, not with stock camouflage, but with Disney cartoons.
Once he returned from France, he wanted to pursue a career in commercial art, which soon lead to his experiments in animation. He began producing short animated films for local businesses, in Kansas City. By the time Walt had started to create The Alice Comedies, which was about a real girl and her adventures in an animated world, Walt ran out of money, and his company Laugh-O-Grams went bankrupted. Instead of giving up, Walt packed his suitcase and with his unfinished print of The Alice Comedies in hand, headed for Hollywood to start a new business. He was not yet twenty-two.
The early flop of The Alice Comedies inoculated Walt against fear of failure; he had risked it all three or four times in his life. Walt's brother, Roy O. Disney, was already in California, with an immense amount of sympathy and encouragement, and $250. Pooling their resources, they borrowed an additional $500, and set up shop in their uncle's garage. Soon, they received an order from New York for the first Alice in Cartoonland (The Alice Comedies) featurette, and the brothers expanded their production operation to the rear of a Hollywood real estate office. It was Walt's enthusiasm and faith in himself, and others, that took him straight to the top of Hollywood society.
Although, Walt wasn't the typical Hollywood mogul. Instead of socializing with the "who's who" of the Hollywood entertainment industry, he would stay home and have dinner with his wife, Lillian, and his daughters, Diane and Sharon. In fact, socializing was a bit boring to Walt Disney. Usually he would dominate a conversation, and hold listeners spellbound as he described his latest dreams or ventures. The people that where close to Walt were those who lived with him, and his ideas, or both.
On July 13, 1925, Walt married one of his first employees, Lillian Bounds, in Lewiston, Idaho. Later on they would be blessed with two daughters, Diane and Sharon . Three years after Walt and Lilly wed, Walt created a new animated character, Mickey Mouse.
His talents were first used in a silent cartoon entitled Plane Crazy. However, before the cartoon could be released, sound was introduced upon the motion picture industry. Thus, Mickey Mouse made his screen debut in Steamboat Willie, the world's first synchronized sound cartoon, which premiered at the Colony Theatre in New York on November 18, 1928.
Walt's drive to perfect the art of animation was endless. Technicolor was introduced to animation during the production of his Silly Symphonies Cartoon Features. Walt Disney held the patent for Technicolor for two years, allowing him to make the only colour cartoons. In 1932, the production entitled Flowers and Trees won Walt the first of his studio's Academy Awards. In 1937, he released The Old Mill, the first short subject to utilize the multi-plane camera technique.
On December 21, 1937, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first full-length animated musical feature, premiered at the Carthay Theatre in Los Angeles. The film produced at the unheard cost of $1,499,000 during the depths of the Depression, the film is still considered one of the great feats and imperishable monuments of the motion picture industry. During the next five years, Walt Disney Studios completed other full-length animated classics such as Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi.
Walt rarely showed emotion, though he did have a temper that would blow over as it blew up. At home, he was affectionate and understanding. He gave love by being interested, involved, and always there for his family and friends. Walt's daughter, Diane Disney Miller, once said:-
Daddy never missed a father's function no matter how I discounted it. I'd say, "Oh, Daddy, you don't need to come. It's just some stupid thing." But he'd always be there, on time. Probably the most painful time of Walt's private life, was the accidental death of his mother in 1938. After the great success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Walt and Roy bought their parents, Elias and Flora Disney, a home close to the studios. Less than a month later Flora died of asphyxiation caused by a faulty furnace in the new home. The terrible guilt of this haunted Walt for the rest of his life.
In 1940, construction was completed on the Burbank Studio, and Disney's staff swelled to more than 1,000 artists, animators, story men, and technicians. Although, because of World War II 94 percent of the Disney facilities were engaged in special government work, including the production of training and propaganda films for the armed services, as well as health films which are still shown through-out the world by the U.S. State Department. The remainder of his efforts were devoted to the production of comedy short subjects, deemed highly essential to civilian and military morale.
Disney's 1945 feature, the musical The Three Caballeros, combined live action with the cartoon animation, a process he used successfully in such other features as Song of the South and the highly acclaimed Mary Poppins. In all, more than 100 features were produced by his studio.
Walt's inquisitive mind and keen sense for education through entertainment resulted in the award-winning True-Life Adventure series. Through such films as The Living Desert, The Vanishing Prairie, The African Lion, and White Wilderness, Disney brought fascinating insights into the world of wild animals and taught the importance of conserving our nation's outdoor heritage.
Walt Disney's dream of a clean, and organized amusement park, came true, as Disneyland Park opened in 1955. As a fabulous $17-million magic kingdom, soon had increased its investment tenfold, and by the beginning of its second quarter-century, had entertained more than 200 million people, including presidents, kings and queens, and royalty from all over the globe.
A pioneer in the field of television programming, Disney began television production in 1954, and was among the first to present full-colour programming with his Wonderful World of Colour in 1961. The Mickey Mouse Club was a popular favourite in the 1950s.
But that was only the beginning. In 1965, Walt Disney turned his attention toward the problem of improving the quality of urban life in America. He personally directed the design of an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT). It was planned as a living showcase for the creativity of American industry. Disney said this about EPCOT: I don't believe there is a challenge anywhere in the world that is more important to people everywhere than finding the solutions to the problems of our cities. But where do we begin? Well, we're convinced we must start with the public need. And the need is not just for curing the old ills of old cities. We think the need is for starting from scratch on virgin land and building a community that will become a prototype for the future.
Thus, Disney directed the purchase of 43 square miles of virgin land--twice the size of Manhattan Island--in the centre of the state of Florida. Here, he master planned a whole new "Disney world" of entertainment to include a new amusement theme park, motel-hotel resort vacation centre, and his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. After more than seven years of master planning and preparation, including 52 months of actual construction, the Walt Disney World Resort, including the Magic Kingdom Park, opened to the public as scheduled on October 1, 1971. EPCOT Centre opened October 1, 1982, and on May 1, 1989, the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park opened.
A few years prior to his death on December 15, 1966, Walt Disney took a deep interest in the establishment of California Institute of the Arts, a college-level professional school of all the creative and performing arts. CalArts, Walt once said, "It's the principal thing I hope to leave when I move on to greener pastures. If I can help provide a place to develop the talent of the future, I think I will have accomplished something." The California Institute of the Arts was founded in 1961 with the combination of two schools, the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and the Chouinard Art Institute. The campus is located in the city of Valencia, 32 miles north east of downtown Los Angeles. Walt Disney conceived the new school as a place where all the performing and creative arts would be taught under one roof in a "community of the arts" as a completely new approach to professional arts training.
Walt Disney is a legend; a folk hero of the 20th century. His worldwide popularity was based upon the ideals which his name represents: imagination, optimism, creation, and self-made success in the American tradition. Walt Disney did more to touch the hearts, minds, and emotions of millions of Americans than any other person in the past century. Through his work he brought joy, happiness, and a universal means of communication to the people of every nation. He brought us closer to the future, while telling us of the past, it is certain, that there will never be such as great a man, as Walt Disney.
Some General Quotes
"I am interested in entertaining people, in bringing pleasure, particularly laughter, to others, rather than being concerned with 'expressing' myself with obscure creative impressions."
"We are not trying to entertain the critics. I'll take my chances with the public."
"You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality."
"All cartoon characters and fables must be exaggeration, caricatures. It is the very nature of fantasy and fable."
"When you're curious, you find lots of interesting things to do. And one thing it takes to accomplish something is courage."
"I don't like formal gardens. I like wild nature. It's just the wilderness instinct in me, I guess."
"Somehow I can't believe there are any heights that can't be scaled by a man who knows the secret of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C's. They are Curiosity, Confidence, Courage, and Constancy and the greatest of these is Confidence. When you believe a thing, believe it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably."
"We allow no geniuses around our Studio."
"Movies can and do have tremendous influence in shaping young lives in the realm of entertainment towards the ideals and objectives of normal adulthood."
"I never called my work an 'art' It's part of show business, the business of building entertainment."
"I am not influenced by the techniques or fashions of any other motion picture company." "Whenever I go on a ride, I'm always thinking of what's wrong with the thing and how it can be improved."
"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing."
"Laughter is America's most important export."
"People still think of me as a cartoonist, but the only thing I lift these days is a pen or pencil to sign a contract, a cheque, or an autograph."
"Why do we have to grow up? I know more adults who have the children's approach to life. They're people who don't give a hang what the Joneses do. You see them at Disneyland every time you go there. They are not afraid to be delighted with simple pleasures, and they have a degree of contentment with what life has brought - sometimes it isn't much, either."
"The era we are living in today is a dream of coming true."
"There is more treasure n books than in all the pirates' loot on Treasure Island and at the bottom of the Spanish Main ... and best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life."
"Your dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway."
"Or heritage and ideals, our code and standards - the things we live by and teach our children - are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings."
"I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn't know how to get along without it."
"Crowded classrooms and half-day sessions are a tragic waste of our greatest national resource - the minds of our children."
"You reach a point where you don't work for money."
"Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language."
"I have no use for people who throw there weight around as celebrities, or for those who fawn over you just because you are famous."
"Adults are interested if you don't play down to the little 2 or 3 year olds or talk down. I don't believe in talking down to children. I don't believe in talking down to any certain segment. I like to kind of just talk in a general way to the audience. Children are always reaching."
"A man should never neglect his family for business."
"When we consider a project, we really study it--not just the surface idea, but everything about it. And when we go into that new project, we believe in it all the way. We have confidence in our ability to do it right. And we work hard to do the best possible job." "I believe in being an motivator."
Some Quotes On Mickey Mouse
"I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing - that it was all started by a mouse."
"Mickey Mouse is, to me, a symbol of independence. He was a means to an end."
"When people laugh at Mickey Mouse, it's because he's so human; and that is the secret of his popularity."
"He popped out of my mind onto a drawing pad 20 years ago on a train ride from Manhattan to Hollywood at a time when business fortunes of my brother Roy and myself were at lowest ebb and disaster seemed right around the corner."
"Born of necessity, the little fellow literally freed us of immediate worry. He provided the means for expanding our organization to its present dimensions and for extending the medium cartoon animation towards new entertainment levels. He spelled production liberation for us."
"We felt that the public, and especially the children, like animals that are cute and little. I think we are rather indebted to Charlie Chaplin for the idea. We wanted something appealing, and we thought of a tiny bit of a mouse that would have something of the wistfulness of Chaplin- a little fellow trying to do the best he could."
"The life and ventures of Mickey Mouse have been closely bound up with my own personal and professional life. It is understandable that I should have sentimental attachment for the little personage who played so big a part in the course of Disney Productions and has been so happily accepted as an amusing friend wherever films are shown around the world. He still speaks for me and I still speak for him."
Some Quotes On Disneyland
"To all that come to this happy place: welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savour the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America... with hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world."
"Biggest problem? Well, I'd say it's been my biggest problem all my life. MONEY. It takes a lot of money to make these dreams come true. From the very start it was a problem. Getting the money to open Disneyland. About seventeen million it took. And we had everything mortgaged including my personal insurance."
"It's no secret that we were sticking just about every nickel we had on the chance that people would really be interested in something totally new and unique in the field of entertainment."
"I don't want the public to see the world they live in while they're in the Park (Disneyland). I want to feel they're in another world."
"When we opened Disneyland, a lot of people got the impressions that it was a get-rich-quick thing, but they didn't realize that behind Disneyland was this great organization that I built here at the Studio, and they all got into it and we were doing it because we loved to do it."
"We did it (Disneyland), in the knowledge that most of the people I talked to thought it would be a financial disaster - closed and forgotten within the first year."
"I first saw the site for Disneyland back in 1953, In those days it was all flat land - no rivers, no mountains, no castles or rocket ships - just orange groves, and a few acres of walnut trees."
"It's something that will never be finished. Something that I can keep developing...and adding to."
"Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world."
"We believed in our idea - a family park where parents and children could have fun- together."
"Disneyland is a work of love. We didn't go into Disneyland just with the idea of making money."
"Disneyland is the star, everything else is in the supporting role."
"Disneyland is a show."
"It has that thing - the imagination, and the feeling of happy excitement- I knew when I was a kid."
Some Quotes On Walt Disney World
"Here in Florida, we have something special we never enjoyed at Disneyland...the blessing of size. There's enough land here to hold all the ideas and plans we can possibly imagine." "We've got to study the land.....We've got to put Disneyland, which everybody will know, at the very upper end of the property because that will be the weenie."
"I've always said that there will never be another Disneyland, and I think it's going to work out that way. But it will be the equivalent of Disneyland. We know the basic things that have family appeal. There are many ways that you can use those certain basic things and give them a new décor, a new treatment. This concept here will have to be something that is unique, so there is a distinction between Disneyland in California and whatever Disney does in Florida."
"I'm doing this because I want to do it better"
"Believe me, it's the most exciting and challenging assignment we have ever tackled at Walt Disney Productions."
Some Quotes On Epcot - (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow)
"But the most exciting and by far the most important part of our Florida Project...in fact, the heart of everything we'll be doing in Disney World...will be our Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow! We call it EPCOT."
"It's like the city of tomorrow ought to be. A city that caters to the people as a service function. It will be a planned, controlled community, a showcase for American industry and research, schools, cultural and educational opportunities."
"EPCOT will be an experimental prototype community of tomorrow that will take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are now emerging from the creative centres of American industry. It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed, but will always be introducing and testing and demonstrating new materials and systems. And EPCOT will always be a showcase to the world for the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise."
"I don't believe there's a challenge anywhere in the world that's more important to people everywhere than finding solutions to the problems of our cities. But where do we begin... how do we start answering this great challenge? Well, we're convinced we must start answering the public need. And the need is for starting from scratch on virgin land and building a special kind of new community that will always be in a state of becoming. I twill never cease to be a living blueprint of the future, where people actually live a life they can't find anywhere else in the world."
Some Quotes On Fantasia
"Fantasia, to me is a whole new opportunity. For my medium it opens up unlimited possibilities. Music has always played a very important part since sound came into the cartoon. Now, the full expression that comes from the new Fantasound opens up a whole new world for us."
"I was doing Sorcerer's Apprentice with Mickey Mouse and I happened to have dinner on night with Leopold Stokowski. And Stokowski said, 'Oh, I'd love to conduct that for you.' ... Well, that led to not only doing this one little short subject but it got us involved to where I did all of Fantasia and before I knew it I ended up spending four hundred and some thousand dollars getting music with Stokowski. But we were in then and it was the point of no return. We went ahead and made it."
Some Quotes On Animation
"Animation offers a medium of story telling and visual entertainment which can bring pleasure and information to people of all ages everywhere in the world."
"I started, actually, to make my first animated cartoon in 1920. Of course, they were very crude things then and I used sort of little puppet things."
"We have created characters and animated them in the dimension of depth, revealing through them to our perturbed world that the things we have in common far outnumber and outweigh those that divide us."
"Cartoon animation offers a medium of storytelling and visual entertainment which can bring pleasure and information to people of all ages everywhere in the world."
"In learning the art of storytelling by animation, I have discovered that language has an anatomy. Every spoken word, whether uttered by a living person or by a cartoon character, has its facial grimace, emphasizing the meaning."
"Animation can explain whatever the mind of man can conceive. This facility makes it the most versatile and explicit means of communication yet devised for quick mass appreciation."
"I take great pride in the artistic development of cartoons. Our characters are made to go through emotions which a few short years ago would have seemed impossible to secure with a cartoon character. Some of the action produced in the finished cartoon of today is more graceful than anything possible for a human to do."
"Animation is different from other parts. Its language is the language of caricature. Our most difficult job was to develop the cartoon's unnatural but seemingly natural anatomy for humans and animals."
"To think six years ahead - even two or three - in this business of making animated cartoon features, it takes calculated risk and much more than blind faith in the future of theatrical motion pictures. I see motion pictures as a family-founded institution closely related to the life and labour of millions of people. Entertainment such as our business provides has become a necessity, not a luxury.... it is the part which offers us the greatest reassurance about the future in the animation field."
"I try to build a full personality for each of our cartoon characters - to make them personalities."
"We have created characters and animated them in the dimension of depth, revealing through them to our perturbed world that the things we have in common far outnumber and outweigh those that divide us."
Some Quotes On CALarts - (California Institute of the Arts)
"I want people to graduate from there really able to do things. I don't want a lot of theorists. I want to have a school that turns out people that know all the facts of film making, I want them to be capable of doing anything needed to make a film-photograph it, direct it, design it, animate it, record it, whatever. That's what I want. Heck, I've hired theorists, and they don't have any knowledge I can use. I want to have everyone in that school come out capable of going in and doing a job. These dilettantes who come out with pseudo-knowledge, they give me a pain. I want it so if an actor is needed, they can get an actor right out of school. If a musician is needed, they can go to the music department and find a musicians who can compose music."
"This is the thing I'm going to be remembered for."
Walt Disney Trivia
Walt was born 'Walter Elias Disney' on 5th December 1901 in Hermosa, Chicago, Illinois.
He died in St Josephs Memorial Hospital on 15th December 1966 in Burbank California aged 65 years old.
Walt was cremated and his ashes were interred in a vault at 'Forest Lawn Cemetery' in Glendale, California.
Walt's Mother died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty boiler in the house that Walt had bought for her.
Walt's Father Elias Disney was Irish-Canadian and his Mother Flora Call Disney was German-American.
As a young boy Walt helped his dad on the farm he owned in Marceline, Missouri.
It was In Marceline that Disney developed his love for drawing, with one of the family's neighbours, a retired doctor named "Doc" Sherwood, who paid him to draw pictures of Sherwood's horse, Rupert.
Walt often took his Sister Ruth to Electric Park, which consisted of 2 theme parks in Kansas City, Missouri, about 15 blocks from their home.
It was this place that Disney would later acknowledge to be a major influence of his design of Disneyland.
It was also around this time that Walt attended the 'Kansas City Art Institute' on Saturdays. Ub Iwerks was the actual creator of Mickey Mouse, as well as his animator, which as we all know started Walt's career in animation.
There did come a point where Walt was asked to draw Mickey that many times by children that he me, he ended up asking Ub to show him how to draw him from a side angle, which was much easier to do, after a while he mastered it.
Ub was also responsible for creating the famous Disney Logo as we know it today, in which he took Walt's signature and made it more rounded and more appealing.
Walt's favourite colour of suit was grey. He eventually grew a pencil moustache to make him look more distinctive, this was suggested by a newspaper columnist.
His favourite breakfast was fresh doughnuts dipped in scotch.
Now as the story goes Walt invented the idea of Mickey on a return trip from New York whilst travelling on a train. He was going to call him Mortimer, but Lillian his wife thought it sounded too sissy and suggested Mickey. The dream was born!!! However this story apparently according to Ub Iwerks son was made up to cover the real beginning of Mickey and that was started by his father Ub. Disney was looking for a character of his own to replace Oswald the rabbit, Ub discovered by rounding the lines and adding circles to Oswald, it was quite easy to turn a rabbit into a mouse and so Mickey was born. On viewing this on a sketch board Walt apparently liked what he had done, but again Ub suggested the name Mickey. Walt was known to take the credit for most things which came out of the Studio and that ended up one of his biggest.
No alcohol was allowed on the Disney Studio premises, although that did not apply to Walt in his office, who would often keep a bottle of scotch in his draw. This contradicts the story that Walt did not drink spirits. There is one rare photograph with Walt and a colleague where he is holding a glass in one hand and a bottle of spirit in the other, this was rare as he did not like being photographed with any form of alcohol around him.
One thing that would get you instant dismissal from the Studio and that was letting a single four letter word slip out in front of the women workers and more so with any children that were on set, no matter how high up the ladder you were you would be dismissed instantly.
Disneyland Park Openings
Disneyland Resort - Anaheim - California - Opened 17/07/1955
Walt Disney World Resort - Orlando Florida - Opened 01/10/1971
Tokyo Disney Resort - Tokyo - Japan - Opened 15/04/1983
Disneyland Paris - Paris - France - Opened 12/04/1992
Hong Kong Disneyland Resort - Hong Kong - Opened 12/09/2005
Shanghai Disney Resort - Shanghai - China - Opening 15/12/2015